Author Archives: benmiller

Secondary Research Synthesis: Children’s Health & Nutrition


Rising rates of childhood obesity and a decrease in parents’ ability to properly identify healthy children is likely to drastic effects on the health of future generations. As the disparity in healthy diets between high and low socioeconomic classes has doubled in the past 10 this issue becomes relevant to South Side of Chicago as many of its residents live over ½ mile away from fresh or healthy food sources. According to former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, “we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents” thus we aim to counter-act this trend by addressing parents and policy-makers who can make the biggest impact on children’s health. Chicagoans have already demonstrated their ability to make nutritious choices when presented with the option by spending more money healthy items rather than “junk food”. IF parents could see the consequences of the food they consume they could help change dietary habits to positively impact their children’s health.


  1. How are parents trying to help their children maintain a balanced diet?
  2. What kind of choices do parents and children have in the food they eat daily?
  3. In what ways can public government and policy help to promote nutrition?

New Tech Secondary Research

I found a couple different projects that interpret visual data to provide meaningful interactions that enhance the users interaction with their surroundings. The first one is called sixthsense which is a wearable technology that allows the user to interact with their environment to do a variety of tasks. Some of these include taking a picture by simply miming the frame of a photo with one’s hands, drawing via projected light with pointing motions, and accessing reviews by placing a book in front of the device’s camera. Although there is a moderate delay between the gestures and the desired action, the emergence of this type of technology seems to a good indicator of how we might move away from technology centered around a phone and more deeply integrated into our natural movements.


Another example of this kind of technology that responds to visual data is PO-MO’s Interactive Building Projection that utilizes a projector and Kinect sensor to allow people passing by on the street to see themselves magnified on a building and interact with digital bubbles. This does not have the practicality of everyday use but does afford some easy access to impromptu play.

Interactive Building

Critical Visualizations Reading Response

The Critical Visualization article by Peter Hall provides great insight on how the visualization of data can help to scaffold the interpretation of data so that its audience can efficiently interpret its message. Peter claims that the three prevailing views of visualization are as “a technology, as a science, and as an art” and that historically visualization typically falls into only one or two of these categories. Depending on the intended message of the visualization there is merit in trying to appeal to each of these views individually such as in the Cholera Map of London where the goal was to develop alternative theories of the disease’s origin. Some with less objective, problem-solving goals and can be interpreted as art. This was demonstrated by Casey Reas’ work in Signals that utilized the data about cell protein communication to produce digital arcs based on the magnitude of the signals being produce.

I feel that as the amount of data available is increasing, along with individuals’ access to this, that the lines between those three views will become less distinct. One example that bridges the gap between these views is a well-known visualization of Chicago neighborhoods that combines typography and geography into a map of the city. This map provides rapid identification of the various neighborhoods without sacrificing pleasing aesthetics and is available in a variety of different formats (and locations) that have a wide appeal.

chicago-typography-neighborhood-map-large il_fullxfull.14055771 chicago-typography-skyline-large

As Hall warns, it is important to remember to “be careful to determine which aspects of the visual coding belong in each category” as people from different backgrounds can interpret colors and symbols to have different meanings from what the designer, scientist, or artist thought to be a universal understanding. Thus we should take appropriate caution when visualizing the data collected so that these assumptions are not overlooked. The interpretations of these visualizations can also become more useful when the users have some control over the data being visualized and the way it is presented and the where the user can adjust the data being presented on both the x- and y-axis to create visualizations that are tailored to their interests.

While I’m on the topic of food…

Also related to food availability is the presence (or the lack thereof) and shaming of “Ugly Produce”. Despite being equally nutritious and perfectly safe to eat According to the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations: “30 percent of global food production is lost after harvest, or wasted in shops.. representing $750 billion worth of food every year” just because it doesn’t meet the visual aesthetics of what people want to eat. A french supermarket is aiming to sell all that “Ugly Produce” by offering a discount on the produce (about 20-30% off) and have been pleased with the success.

Intermarche – “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” Clip

Failed LemonUgly CarrotHideous OrangeGrotesque AppleWeird Fruits & Vegetables

Secondary Research Project – Part 2


 Source 1:       Chicago Tribune 8/7/2014 (

 Thesis:           Despite vendors’ resistance to supplying nutritious snacks in fear of losing revenue from traditional snack items, Chicagoans are spending more money on healthy snacks available in Chicago park vending machines.

Data:               Monthly per-machine sales rose from $84 to $371 in a little over a year. Of those surveyed, 88 percent reported enjoying the healthy snacks they tried, and 98 percent indicated they would purchase the snacks again.

Source 2:       The Atlantic 9/2/2014 (

Thesis:           Although diet quality among the whole population is improving overall, the diet of those of low socioeconomic status is deteriorating.

 Data:               The difference in the quality of diet between people of high and low socioeconomic status doubled between 2000 and 2010.

 Source 3:       The Chicago Tribune 12/23/2013 (

Thesis:           A Dominick’s closing risks turning Englewood and South Shore into a “food desert”

 Data:               With the closing of this Dominick’s store the next closest groceries are 1 and 1.5 miles away.

Creative Project Example: - interactive maps used to show areas of Low Income (LI) and the relation to Low Access (LA) to local groceries.


Source 1:       Chicago 9/1/2014 (

Thesis:           The percentage of parents in the U.S. who fail to correctly identify their child as overweight or obese is increasing.

Data:               Analyzing data on about 3,000 children for the study found that from 1988 – 1994: 78% of parents of an overweight boy, and 61%of parents of an overweight girl, identified the child as “about the right weight.” These percentages increased during the years of 2005 – 2010: 83% of parents of an overweight boys, and 78 percent for girls.

Creative Project Examples: can be found in my first post on Secondary Research Projects

Source 2: 9/9/2014 (

Thesis:           Most American kids are getting far too much salt in their food which puts them at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, conditions usually associated with middle age.

 Data:               The CDC reports that more than 90% of children are eating above the recommended 2,300mg of salt per day with an average consumption of 3,729mg – 62% higher than the recommended limit.

Source 3: 9/9/2014 (

Thesis:           In Chicago, most children with asthma or food allergies don’t have a health management form, known as a 504 Plan, on file at school

 Data:               Only ¼ of children with asthma and ½ of those with a food allergy had a 504 Plan on file at school. Without these plans the only way schools can provide help during a time of need is by calling 911.